Bike-Sharing Goes Electric In Amsterdam

Electric bike-sharing system Urbee is aiming at becoming the fastest way of getting around Amsterdam.

In the Dutch capital, cycling is the fastest way to travel the city. Distances are relatively short, bike infrastructure is great and there’s simply not enough space for cars and public transport. Nevertheless, quite a number of people are still choosing their car over a bike. Especially professionals hopping from meeting to meeting, even for short distances. The physical exercise required for cycling is often one of the reasons — you don’t want to show up at a client covered in sweat. And how representative is a bike exactly?

Urbee is setting up a network of shared e-bikes. The startup is setting itself apart from the many other options for bike-sharing or renting in the Dutch capital, by offering full-electric bikes that are mostly aimed at professional users. Those are the ones that Urbee wants to get out of their car and onto bikes, activating them by making cycling lighter, faster and more easy with distances up to 20 km. The Urbee bikes have a top speed of 25 km/h, making a much larger part of town within reach, compared to the 4.5 km the average Amsterdammer is willing to cycle. Car usage in Amsterdam is very costly as parking fees are enormous, but also time-wise, taking into account the average time to find a parking spot in the crowded city. Public transport is notoriously slow, with bikes being twice as fast on average.

Urbee is installing e-bike stations at central locations in the city, but for the moment it’s mostly focusing on locations next to business hubs. Companies can get a subscription for all their employees so they can use the bikes for their professional trips. Individuals and tourist are also welcome to use any bike and pay per journey. The Urbee app will show the bike that is most near. After making a reservation (within the app), users will receive an unlock code straight away. The technology is incorporated into the bikes, so no expensive infrastructure is needed — just a bike rack and an electric plug to recharge. The system was developed in cooperation with Delft-based Skopei. They teamed up with Qwic, the Dutch Bicycle Rental and Amsterdam Fund for Climate and Energy, to invest €2.1 million in the startup.

Urbee believes electric cycling will become the norm in the near future, also for private use. They hope to inspire users to purchase an e-bike of their own. Urbee has started with 300 bikes, which will grow to 750 this year and 1,500 in the years to come. While interest from other cities is growing, Amsterdam will remain the focus for now.